Two Balnearis in Catalunya

I have never done this before and I doubt if I will again, but I went to two balnearis on one day!

BalneariI arranged to meet a friend in Caldes de Montbui as I wanted to visit the new municipal balneari at Plaça de Pau Surell.

She arrived late when I was almost finished so we went on to bathe together at Broquetas which I have written about before but was very happy to visit again.

I won’t do two in one day again.  Later that night I came down with a terrible cold. I think I did a bit too much cleansing!  These places are powerful.

Balnearis of Catalunya

As you may know I am doing a survey of the Catalan Balnearis  which are not well known outside the area. There are people who live here who also don’t know about them or how to go about visiting them.

There is a lot of information on the internet but it is generally very poorly translated into English. Here is an example from the Caldes tourist information:-

The spa tradition of Caldes de Montbui date very old as in Roman times was a spa town founded about hot springs that gush

However it is quite a good way of describing it – hot springs that gush – yes that is the wonderful miracle of these spas or balnearis as they are known here.

I am going to concentrate on the Catalan town of Caldes de Montbui because they have an especially rich history of mineral spas and a fountain where the gushing can be seen and felt – but don’t touch it – the water comes out at 76 degrees centigrade!

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Where is Caldes de Montbui?

It is about 30 km from Barcelona and is not on a train line but you can get there by bus or by car. It is one of my favourite Catalan towns and is well worth the effort – not just for the spas, but because I think the medicinal waters have a healing effect on the people who live here and it is very friendly and relaxed.

How many Balnearis are there?

Unless there are some secret ones which I haven’t yet discovered (which wouldn’t surprise me at all as I imagine people have the mineral waters flowing right into their homes) there are four balnearis in Caldes.

Broquetas, Vila de Caldes, Victoria and the ‘new’ one at El Safareig.

I have visited all four and want to write about them so you too can enjoy the fabulous healing and luxurious pleasure of bathing in mineral waters.

El Safareig

IMG_8309A few years ago I went to an art festival in Caldes called Miau which centred on the places where the mineral waters are available for everyone to enjoy. There are places called Safareig which were traditionally used for washing clothes and many generations of women have spent time there chatting and cleaning, and breathing in the minerals. And there are places to bathe.

One of the exhibitions was in an old dilapidated neglected safareig which was full of rubbish, forgotten, and covered in graffiti. We were invited to write down our dreams on one of the walls.  I wrote mine on the far wall in the photo above!

Here is one of the other safareigs used to this day.

IMG_0084And here is the view from this wonderful new place to go and bathe.

IMG_8313It  has been totally renovated and reopened as a place to take the waters. It is simple, beautiful, and priced so that everyone can come. I heard that the vision to reopen this place came directly out of the art exhibition of Miau. And especially an American woman artist called Charity Blansit. It was called Santa Esperança before and has a wonderful position between the allotments of Caldes and the church.

Follow this link for some more photos and information

There is a long slim pool of water with the jet bubbles at one end.Yes you have to share it with other people but everyone was very quiet and they only allow in a certain number every hour. I felt fine being there by myself.

It overlooks the vegetable gardens zone of Caldes with the mountains in the distance. On a warm day it would be good to sit out here.

IMG_8306The water pours in at a very hot temperature into a bath where they warn you not to bathe – but thankfully as this is not nanny Britain, they do not fence it off in any way. I suppose it must be mixed at this point with cooler water and then it flows into the long pool.

IMG_8310I took only a bathing costume and flip flops. You don’t need a bathing hat. I bought a paper towel which was ok but next time I would take my own.

It cost 5 euros for an hour.

Totally fabulous and if I lived in Caldes I would be there every week.

To reserve a place go to http://www.visiteucaldes.cat/safareig-termal/or you can go there directly and see if they have space. It is behind the church.

 

Broquetas Baneari

This is one of the old modernist balnearis that is a pleasure to walk around in your dressing gown,  feeling you are inside a historical setting.

IMG_5115It is right in the centre of Caldes de Montbui, opposite the famous Lion fountain

IMG_5119The Romans loved it here.

IMG_8323I have been there twice before and enjoyed it every time.

It is not that easy to understand the booking system, even speaking and understanding Catalan as I do.

I usually ask for a ticket for a circuit but in this hotel there are so many choices that I think the best way to book is for a bateig. (bat-edge)  Bateig means christening and in this case means you have a bath in a large pool and then two treatments of your choice.

However, we arrived rather late for this so we ended up having just the bath in the pool. This cost 31 euros for two people and also includes the option of swimming in the outdoor pool which is also mineral waters.

IMG_8330Here you need bathing costume, flip flops, towel, no hat required but a dressing gown is essential for walking between rooms and you can either bring one or hire one for 6 euros.

St Thomas le Bain
One of my early spa experiences

For me bathing in the mineral waters of Catalunya is a spiritual experience. It is healing, relaxing, softening, centring. I feel connected to the earth and to all the people who have used these magical places over the centuries. All the balnearis are different and bring different energies to the surface. The waters have been on a long journey down to the deep places of our planet, taking on minerals and heat as they flow, and then they surge up in very special places like Caldes, where the waters gush.

To finish I must just way a few words about Caldes.  This is a very friendly place. People seem relaxed and happy. We went for a beer and tapas at a local bar and there was a man playing cello outside the church. Many people stopped to listen and to drop in a few coins. The music was soothing and beautiful.  Every time I have visited there has been something special to enjoy.  My recommendation to everyone – whether you are a visitor or a resident – come to spend some hours in Caldes and even better, take the waters.

If you would like more information about the balnearis then please do contact me here. I am happy to give more detailed advice and suggestions and am planning to write a leaflet about the spas which will tell you all you need to know in order to plan a visit to one.

If you do a search here on the blog for ‘balneari’ you will be able to find lots more information.

Do let me know if you have visited a balneari here in Catalunya. What was it like for you?

 

 

Catching Up with you….and with myself

This is crazy – I want to write but it all feels too complicated to explain.

So here is my promise – I will write something in here every day for the rest of August and even if it’s short…..or boring…..or totally irrelevant……it will get me going again!

And to get me started here is a photo diary of the last few weeks.

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Wild flowers in the little garden behind the cabin
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My furniture arrives from Spain! I felt a bit silly for having sent it south three years ago but I suppose you can’t always know what the future holds and I did get (some) use from it.
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After spending three weeks in Cornwall I went back to Catalunya once more! This time feeling relaxed enough to spend time enjoying the sunshine
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And even more importantly to spend time with my favourite little friend. Stylish as always, here she is wearing a Japanese suit with top and shorts.
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Summer isn’t complete without regular drinks of Horxata
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I met my friend Cristina for supper in one of the beach cafes near Barcelona and ended up having a naked moonlit swim
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Back to Cornwall and there was another party – this one meeting lots of people I only know from an internet photo group. I’m not very good at meeting lots of new people all at once – I struggled a bit I have to admit. But the organiser did a very thoughtful thing and gave each of us little bundles of cards made from our own photos. I think I will get some more made from my photos of Granollers
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Twice a day the dairy herd crosses this road beside my home. You just have to switch off your engine and enjoy the scene. It’s not an easy life but this herd is well looked after by two Cornish twin brothers. This farm also is home to a large cat colony – the kitten overspill often arrives in neighbouring gardens and garages.
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Work starts on renewing the sitting-room floor. A large granite slab is revealed
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My sister and cousin came to visit and we went for posh fish and chips in St Ives where they were staying for the week
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Walking the coast path with a friend and her dog, we came across the wild ponies who live there to keep the grass down
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Cornish sky over Sennen beach. It’s not warm enough to swim yet for me but there is always the hope that you will see dolphins or seals
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Work on The Stone continues!
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I’ve fallen in love with my neighbour’s cat. She was born in a nearby shed, grew up in my garage, went missing with her sister and then finally found her forever home next door. She is one of the farm’s kittens – see above.
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The Minack Theatre is right on the edge of the cliff. Even if the play isn’t enthralling, the view is always wonderful. I had friends to stay so we went to see Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Forum. I have to admit spending a lot of time watching the clouds.
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July’s Blue Moon over the Merry Maidens. I love going there at night but it makes me sad that neither Blue nor Bonnie are here to accompany us. It’s time to get a new dog.
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This is a view I never get tired of. Just as you drive out of Newlyn on the road to Mousehole there is a place that looks down over the harbour and across to St Michaels Mount. It’s double yellow lines but I often have to stop just for a minute.
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And lastly the sky again, this time from the James Turrell room in Tremenheere sculpture park.

It’s been a busy time but also a time for contemplation. Friendship, home, illness, loss, dreams, changes, fears, love, time passing. Thank you for visiting!

“I make spaces that apprehend light for our perception, and in some ways gather it, or seem to hold it…my work is more about your seeing than it is about my seeing, although it is a product of my seeing.”
— James Turrell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Questions about the Camino de Santiago

Writing about the Camino is turning out to be harder than I expected.  I don’t normally get writer’s block but something has stopped me up till now.

So let me write something quick and easy tonight – right now – without worrying too much about it or trying to get it ‘right’.  I’m going to answer a few questions that people have asked me, dealing with practicalities. Let’s see what comes out.

Where did you sleep?

Camino
there were three people snoring in this room

All along the Camino there are albergues, hostels run either by the church, by the local councils, or by private individuals. The private ones are slightly more expensive but only by a few euros. Generally you could expect to sleep in an albergue for 6-8 euros a night. Your bed will be in a dormitory unless you pay extra for a smaller room. The dormitories will have anything from 6 to 30 bunk beds and the rooms can be modern, clean and light or dingy, dark and cramped. It is best to get a lower bunk especially if you tend to need the toilet in the middle of the night.

Snorers are the main problem in albergues. We are not talking here about gentle snoring but it is almost inevitable that there will be at least one incredibly loud snorting, grunting, choking, room-vibrating snorer in every dormitory you visit. So you carry ear-plugs and you try to get to sleep before they do, and you practise loving-compassion and you accept that some nights you will be tossing and turning.

HOT TIP :  push the earplugs deep into your ears

How easy is it to get vegetarian food on the Camino?

Camino food
Albergue Verdi
Camino food
San Bol Albergue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s not easy in most places but the bigger cities have greater variety of food. Every day there is tortilla – a thick omelette with potato and onion. But this is often what you eat at lunch time or in a walking break. You have to find something else in the evenings or just have tapas. Many but not all albergues have kitchens but remember that if you want to cook for yourself you may have to buy excess food and leave it behind.

HOT TIP :  making friends on the Camino means that you can share cooking in the evenings so a bag of rice or pasta will do for 10 people and a new bottle of oil will be useful for everyone not just you.

The best food I had was in Albergue Verdi in Hospital de Órbigo. The volunteers who work there were professional chefs and all the food was vegetarian and often grown in the garden outside. And we had a delicious soup at the Albergue at San Bol at the beginning of the Meseta.

Was your backpack hard to carry?

Camino backpack
All I need is on my back

 

Absolutely not at all.

I am a professional lazy walker and often rely on Pep to carry things when we go out hiking. I always imagined that because I have asthma it would be too hard to also carry a heavy bag. But on the Camino I carried my 7kg pack every day and hardly ever felt it to be a burden. On the one day it was uncomfortable, someone suggested I empty and repack it. This redistribution of weight transformed it from a heavy load to a feather light friend. I loved having all my stuff with me and enjoyed feeling I was carrying my own things. This was part of the freedom I felt – all I needed was on my back.

Did you meet interesting people?

Pelegrinos
Pilgrims but not walkers on the Camino

On the first part of the Camino which we started at Pamplona, I felt quite shy about meeting people. I was with my little group and although we didn’t usually walk together we had company for lunch and at night. It took me time to get used to the easy-going chatty atmosphere of the Camino. By the time we reached Santo Domingo de la Calzada I had met a few people I felt easy with and from then on I found more and more friends.

Of course it’s easy for extroverts but don’t worry if you are more introvert, people are friendlier and more relaxed as the road winds on. I remember the couple who walked hand in hand the whole way – they were returning to walk the Camino together after meeting there the year before. I remember the woman from Peru who was carrying her father’s ashes to Finisterre because he had died before he could walk the Camino himself. There was a young shy German lad who held back from a communal dinner so I suggested we sit together because I also felt awkward at these times. Everyone started singing popular songs like Blowing in the Wind and suddenly his amazing and powerful voice rang out over the dinner table. He was a professional tenor.   I promised to sing him a song in Catalan when we next met. But we never did meet again.

Camino Food
Singing at dinner

People come and go. We all walk at different speeds and unexpected things happen. Just as you get to know and like someone, you say goodbye one day fully expecting to see them again and then, they disappear over the horizon.

HOT TIP : If you meet people you like then get their emails or Facebook details early on and don’t assume you will find them again the next day.

HOT TIP : Don’t rush getting to know people. A lot of people talk about having a Camino Family but it all takes time to settle down. It is a long walk – there’s lots of time.

What problems did you face?

Of course there are also people you don’t like too much or who you find irritating. This was one of the special things about the Camino for me. I really tried to open to everyone and to notice myself when I started judging others. When I could remember to see everyone as if they were offering me a mirror to my own personality then I felt much easier. The main people that drove me mad were those invisible unknown women who left toilet tissue along the path after they had stopped to pee and those who threw their banana skins on the edge of the road. It was possible to walk for hours while fuming about this but when I noticed myself spoiling my own day in this way, I got out my plastic gloves and a bag and began to pick up all that I could see. I became the litter warrior and it turned into one of my happiest days.

Camino Warrior
Camino Warrior

HOT TIP : Even if you think banana skins and orange peel are organic, they actually take two or three years to decompose so it is still litter and leaves a lasting blot on the beautiful landscape.  Take a bag and carry your rubbish.

I had many other problems including my encounter with a bed-bug, my blisters, and the tendinitis that eventually stopped my walk.  I felt very emotional a lot of the time and had days when I laughed, cried and sang in quick succession. In my memory though the strongest thing that stays with me is the feeling of incredible happiness to be walking, to be free, to be out in nature, and to be doing something that I have dreamt of for so many years.

Camino
What I remember is joy

 

 

 

Hotel Balneari Broquetas – the modernist spa

Balneari Broquetas
Spring flowers are the best

Spring is coming in fast. The trees in Granollers are in the first stages of their annual blossom-fest – first the almond and then the cherry. White then pink.

The nights are now pleasant. Only a week ago it was still cold up in the bedroom and we needed the electric fire to dry off the humidity. Now I have relegated the hot water bottle to the back of the cupboard.

Dull dry skin – sluggish jaded body

When Spring is in the air it can often make you feel sluggish. You realise your body has been deprived of sunshine and warmth and it feels like you need a cleanse of some kind. Many people change their diet at this time of year or start fasting or take up a new form of exercise.

My skin has been feeling very dry and dull and when my body needs a boost  of course my thoughts turn to the balnearis of Catalunya!

Caldes de Montbui has a source of hot mineral water

I went with a friend a few weeks ago to one of the balnearis in Caldes de Montbui and took lots of photos as it is such an incredibly beautiful and unique place.  More news will follow soon on the other spas in this town – one of which is my current favourite!

balneari broquetas
so much creativity went into making these tiles

Balneari Broquetas

Broquetas
it stands in the town centre near the Lion fountain

The most wonderful aspect of this balneari is that the building is modernist and the baths are full of beautiful details and designs.

Balneari BroquetasWe chose three things to do as part of the basic spa package which lasts for one and a half hours. There is a wide choice but we picked the pool, the hammam and the horizontal jet spray baths.

There was no-one else there at all while we had our session – third time I’ve been lucky like this!    Here is the entrance to spa, you go down these stairs and enter a hot water paradise!

IMG_5107The pool is booked for your personal use so only members of your group will be there. It has all the usual jets and sprays and feels both intimate and big enough to swim around in.

balneari broquetas
our private pool

The hammam is too steamy to take photos but was enjoyable apart from the session being a little too short for us seasoned steam bathers.

Balneari Broquetas
I wonder who the artist was?

Imagine wandering around this lovely place, feeling warmed and cossetted by the beautiful design as well as the healing waters!

Balneari Broquetas
Love this ceiling

Even the changing rooms are lovely. This is the door to the Dones.

IMG_5101The horizontal jet bath was the most exciting thing. You lie down side by side, with your heads on cushions and hold on tight when the water starts because it comes both hot and cold and with such force that my friends bathing costume ballooned out to make her look 9 months pregnant. We were laughing and squealing and trying to stay steady in the very exhilarating water pressure.  When we came out we both felt totally revitalised.

Balneari Broquetas
two people can lie here side by side

There is an outdoor pool in the gardens which we were able to use and as the water in Caldes is very hot it felt comfortable even on this chilly day.

Balneari Broquetas
cold air, hot water

Perfect place for someone who wants to bathe in private

This was my second visit to Broquetas and I like it very much although I prefer to have more freedom to move around and not have to keep to a fixed schedule. However as my friend pointed out it is a wonderful place for a beginner or a shy bather as you are always in a private space, the staff are friendly and they leave you to enjoy it in a very relaxed way.  My first visit was with my sister and nephew a few years ago. My nephew, then 14, didn’t want to come really but afterwards he said it was the best part of his holiday.

The place itself is a work of art and as always, the waters of Caldes are healing and magical.P1090946We paid 30 euros each for our sessions which included gowns and towels.

IMG_5100 As you leave to return to the real world you can stop and admire the entrance which you didn’t notice when you arrived rushed and nervous from the journey. Now, relaxed, cleansed and ready for Spring,  you have time to look up and admire the flowers.

P1090942Here is the link if you would like to visit this balneari yourself.

IMG_5117Have you ever been to a hot mineral spa?  Let us know which places are your favourites in the comments section below. If you have any questions do get in touch and I will be happy to try and help.

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And let me know in the comments if you enjoyed this post or if there are other things you would like to know more about from The Catalan Way.

Till next time!   Happy Spring!

Being here

You don’t need to go anywhere so long as you are totally present where you are.  Being here is so much        

Rilke

being alive
Being here is so much

Living in another country is a strange experience. It gives and it takes away.

There is always a balance between what is wonderful here and what I am missing over there.

Some days this bothers me a lot, and other days it doesn’t.

I try to imagine how I would feel if I had never left home….the security, the familiarity, the sense of deep roots connecting me and holding me fast.

All I know is that somehow this experience of being ‘somewhere ever so slightly alien’ makes me feel awake, even when sometimes I would rather be sleeping.

This evening, walking at dusk through the natural reserve at the Aiguamolls, worrying slightly that we might not reach the car-park before dark, the colours of the sunset made me stop thinking for a long moment. Suddenly here too it felt like home – ‘planet earth’ home – ‘the amazingness of being alive’ home.

being alive
stairway to heaven

I don’t know where home is and I don’t even know what it means to be alive but in those moments when nature is outstandingly beautiful, dreamy, magical, I almost catch a sense of what it’s all about.

Do you know what I mean?